Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Runner (1999)

Hmm...this might have worked for my salute to Loveable Losers, except the protagonist is just an idiot. 

Synopsis: Gambling is bad, mmmkay? You could lose your house, alienate your loved ones, or even be forced to hand over your first-born son to a criminal mastermind with radio-controlled attack dogs. Wait, WTF?!?

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: "Never make a bet you can't afford to lose."

What Did I Learn?: Apparently, Courtney Cox can act. I wouldn't have guessed that even after viewing a season or two of Friends.


Really?: 1) See: "Synopsis"... radio-controlled dogs? 2) So, does Deepthroat (John Goodman) have any hobbies, or anything? Considering he's filthy rich, does he really have to spend all of his time at a desk in some abandoned factory with a computer and telephone headset all day? 3) Funny how is never occurs to Edward (Ron Eldard) or Karina (Courtney Cox) to... oh, I dunno.... talk to the police, considering a psychotic bookie wants to steal their baby boy. 4) How does Deepthroat know the gender of the baby so quickly? Does he have a spy at the hospital? 5) So wait - Edward suffers a serious head injury, and we're told the slightest pressure on his temple could cause instant death, and yet [NO SPOILERS!].

Rating: The Runner starts out well, but quickly becomes increasingly implausible after Joe Montegna's character is killed off by the radio-controlled dogs. The film is heavily contrived, the story stops making sense after awhile, and its ending is ridiculous, but I'm going to give The Runner an extra half-star (and a barely passing grade) based upon Cox's performance - I had no idea she has some real talent. 5.5/10 stars.

Friday, June 27, 2014

American Buffalo (1996)

This would have been perfect for my salute to Loveable Losers…. Well, except these characters are assholes. 

Synopsis: It’s basically 88 minutes of two - sometimes three -  lowlifes arguing over how to commit a robbery...that never takes place!! 

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: "Two-time Academy Award winner Dustin Hoffman (RAINMAN, KRAMER VS. KRAMER) and two-time Emmy Award winner Dennis Franz (NYPD BLUE) deliver a tour-de-force performance as volatile small-tiem hustlers in this edgy, electrifying story of trust, betrayal and loyalty gone dangerously awry."

What Did I Learn?: 1) "We live like cavemen." 2) "The world is lies. There is no friendship." 3) It's a good idea to know all the facts before you smack somebody in the head with a telephone.


Really?: Oh wow – take a drink every time Don (Dennis Franz) or Teach (Dustin Hoffman) make a point by adding: “Am I right?” This rhetorical device gets old, fast. 

Rating: I wanted to like American Buffalo more than I did. While Hoffman and Franz share some nice chemistry (the third actor, Sean Nelson, is also quite good), and I generally enjoy David Mamet’s work, this film left me a bit cold. For starters, the robbery never happens; heck, nothing really happens! I like character-driven movies, so this wouldn’t be a problem if these guys were interesting, or even remotely likeable, but they aren’t – Teach is especially annoying, and you have to wonder why Don puts up with him. 6/10 stars.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Stroker Ace (1983)

Burt Reynolds Film Fest Movie #8 (Wow – this would have been perfect for my salute to Driving Really Fast back in January, 2013….)

Synopsis: Stroker Ace is a 95-minute car chase. Will he win the race? Take second place? Wind up in a neck brace? Or vanish from racing without a trace? [Folks, this is why I don’t write poetry for a living.]

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Great times with the good ol’ boy! Burt Reynolds takes the wheel in Stroker Ace, a roaring stock-car-racing comedy co-starring Loni Anderson and featuring real-life Daytona International footage.” 

What Did I Learn?: According to the protagonist, all actors are “egotistical, hypochondriac sissies.” 

Really?: 1) Stroker…Burt agreed to play a character named “Stroker.” I guess “Wanker” was too obvious? 2) Gee…  for a tee-totaling Sunday School teacher, Pembrooke (Anderson) sure succumbs to Stroker’s advances rather easily, doesn’t she? Never saw that one coming… 3) You know, if Stroker really wanted Torkle to fire him, couldn’t he have just trashed a few hotel rooms, or get caught hiring a prostitute, or something? 4) I realize Stroker and Lugs (Jim Nabours) are a couple of Southern good ol’ boys, but come on – wouldn’t they know the meaning of the word “scrotum”? 

Rating: Stroker Ace is by far the weakest of the three Burt Reynolds films that were included in the Warner Brothers Triple Feature; the humour is pretty juvenile, the racing scenes aren’t terribly exciting, and much of the material (Burt is a charming daredevil; he has a nebbishy best friend; the boss is an oily son-of-a-bitch; Burt develops a rivalry with a younger daredevil that develops into a grudging respect, etc…) seems to have been lifted from another – and far superior – Hal Needham film, Hooper. I cannot recommend this movie. 5/10 stars. 

Would it Work For a Bad Movie Night?: Maybe – take a drink every time Stroker preens in the mirror.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Best Friends (1982)

Burt Reynolds Film Fest Movie #7

Synopsis: Burt and Goldie learn that discovering America, reconnecting with loved ones, and committing yourself to your life partner through the holy bonds of matrimony are all poison to the soul.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “To say that sparks of entertainment fly with a company like this is sheer understatement. Named one of the year’s 10 Best by the New York Daily News, Best Friends gives romantic chemistry new lustre – and makes for the best of fun.” 

What Did I Learn?: 1) If a chick who looks like Goldie Hawn asks you to take a shower with her, it's not a good idea to reply: “I’ve already taken a shower." 2) Buffalo is a frozen, dilapidated hell-hole that's best avoided by civilized people.


Really?: Hold on - Richard and Paula have been together for five years, and the simple act of getting married somehow ruins the relationship? And wait - after five years, they're finally meeting each other's parents?

Rating: Based on the cheesy VHS jacket, I expected the worst when I popped a copy of Best Friends into my VCR, and yet it actually wasn't all that bad. Best Friends isn't a great film by any stretch - it's only sporadically funny, the soundtrack is terrible, and you won't remember much of it the day after viewing, but Burt and Goldie do their best with the material, and I loved the 20-30 minutes they spend in Buffalo with Paula's parents. 6/10 stars.

Hooper (1978)

Burt Reynolds Film Fest Movie #6

Synopsis: Aging stuntman learns the hard way that landing on his spine 300 times isn't such a hot idea. 

Blurb From the DVD Jacket: "Sally Field teams with Reynolds in Hooper, the affectionate and much-admired salute to movie stunt people. When the boss says jump...Hooper says how far down?"

What Did I Learn?: Apparently, Hollywood had a very relaxed attitude towards drinking and driving three decades ago.


Really?: 1) See "What Did I Learn?" 2) Yeah - punching out the Director is a great way to ensure he'll pay you in a timely fashion for the big stunt that almost killed you. 3) Yup... there's nothing like a furniture-smashing, wreck-the-place barroom brawl to bring stuntmen and SWAT team members together, is there? Gee - it's a good thing you can't get seriously hurt from being knocked unconscious! Still, I have to wonder how Hooper and his buddies can return to the same watering hole a week later, and get welcomed with open arms.

Rating: Hooper is definitely the best of the three films that were included by Warner Brothers in a special Burt Reynolds DVD Triple Feature. Packed with a LOT of impressive stunts (no surprise, considering the protagonist takes falls for a living), the film possesses an amiable good humour, and it never takes itself too seriously. Mind you, that's also the movie's biggest weakness; everything turns into a big joke, there aren't any consequences for bad decisions, and Hooper's health issues (to say nothing of his relationship with Field) are more-or-less glossed over. Not bad for an evening's entertainment. 7/10 stars.